AMY FARRAH FOWLER WAS WRONG ABOUT INDIANA JONES.
The date was October 10, 2013, and I was sitting down to watch the latest episode of “The Big Bang Theory”. A late comer to the show in Season 4, I had fallen for it quickly. Something about the characters struck home, reminding me of some of the “nerdier” types (myself included) that had been my friends throughout much of my youth. Amazing writing doesn’t hurt either.
Little did I know that this particular Season 7 episode, titled “The Raiders Minimization”, a name that I should have read more closely, would end up shaking me to my very core.
Things started out simple enough, with Sheldon Cooper and his beau Amy Farrah Fowler having just finished watching one of his all-time favorite movies (and one in my personal top five as well), the 1981 Lucas/Spielberg adventure classic, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. If you haven’t actually seen the movie you can stop reading now. Seriously, this will mean nothing to you.
Anyway, with Sheldon and Amy having just made it through the closing credits, our intrepid Dr. Cooper asks Dr. Fowler for her reaction. I had gone through this exact same thing with my wife almost two decades earlier, and was dying to see Amy’s reaction. If it was anything like my spouse’s, our hero was in for a rude awakening.
Surprisingly, the conversation started off rather promising. Amy liked the movie well enough, saying “it was good”. So far, so good, I thought, somewhat mollified that the writers of my new favorite show hadn’t gone out of their way to bash one of my favorite movies.
Then the conversation took a shocking turn.
Instead of trying to describe the cinematic sacrilege written for Mayim Bialik’s usually supportive character, I simply provide a transcription of the exchange below (or video, if you like). And yes, if ‘Raiders’ means anything to you, this will definitely hurt.
AMY: (like I said) It was very entertaining, despite the glaring story problem.
SHELDON: Story problem? (laughs derisively) What a dewey-eyed moon calf you are. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the love child of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two of the most gifted filmmakers of our generation. I’ve watched it 36 times, except for the snake scene and the face melting scene, which I can only watch while it’s still light out. (tsks) I defy you to find a story problem. Here’s my jaw…drop it.
AMY: Alright. Indiana Jones plays no role in the outcome of the story. If he weren’t in the film, it would turn out exactly the same.
SHELDON: (shakes head patronizingly) I see your confusion. You don’t understand, (points at movie box) Indiana Jones was the one in the hat with the whip.
AMY: No, I do. And if he weren’t in the movie, the Nazis would have still found the Ark, taken it to the island, opened it up and all died. Just like they did.
Sheldon stares at her dumbstruck. Amy reaches out and puts her hand underneath his open jaw.
AMY: Let me close that for ya. (she does)
Wait, I thought. Is she right!? Could it be possible that one of my favorite movies of all time, starring my favorite character of all time, Indiana freakin’ Jones, was pointless? I mean, Indy was a bona fide childhood hero, and I had the hat and whip to prove it. His actions must have amounted to something, damn it! They had to!
Hoping for a better answer from show creators Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady et al., I ventured on. Sheldon and his friends were actual geniuses, I reasoned, and between the four of them they would surely find a hole in her theory.
Sure enough, a little later in the episode after Sheldon breaks the bad news to his clearly heartbroken comrades, Howard argues that without Indy the Nazis would have never found the Ark, since he found it first and they just stole it from him. Unfortunately, after a brief celebration this theory is quickly refuted by Leonard, who points out that Indiana’s nemesis Belloq and crew were only digging in the wrong place because Indy had gotten the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra first. If there was no Indy in the story, then the baddies would have acquired the headpiece and dug in the right place. Indy getting there first seemingly accomplished noting. But more on that later.
Wait, I pleaded again, say it isn’t so! I tried desperately to find the hole in the logic, but somewhere deep down inside I knew the truth. Whether the Big Bang fellas and I liked it or not, Amy was right. Full of whip cracks, wisecracks, daring escapes and heroic feats, Indy’s actions, for all of their sound and glory, seemed to have accomplished nothing. Not a damn thing.
Of course, this was only a movie i told myself, and somewhat resembling a grown adult, I tried to shrug it off. Fine, I even remember saying, maybe he didn’t matter to the story, but I can still love the movie, right? Right?
I could see right away that this was going to be a problem.
Undaunted, and a little more than fired up, I went online and immediately downloaded the film. “No effect on the plot”, you say? We’ll just see about that!
Pen and paper in hand I dug in, (If you were born after 1990 or so, you can click on the links explaining what those “p” words mean) and wouldn’t you know it, by movie’s end I found three critically important points our intrepid, buzz-killing Dr. Fowler seems to have missed. I list them below.
Okay, I admit that some of Indy’s actions may not have impacted the result of the main story, per se, but before I get to his two more significant impacts below, I want it pointed out just how many Nazis and how much Nazi equipment this allegedly timid archaeologist took out of commission.
Whether it was trucks, jeeps, tanks, motorbikes with side cars, (a Nazi staple, if my fiction viewing is any indication) massive guns or even a big ass airplane, Indy spent nearly the entire second half of the film blowing up, crashing into, knocking off the road, or otherwise immobilizing dozens of pieces of not-inexpensive bad-guy war equipment. I haven’t counted, but trust me it is a whole damn bunch.
Not enough, you say? Okay, fine.
How about the nearly equal number of Hitler’s minions who were shot, stabbed, crashed into, knocked off the road, punched in the face, derailed, or otherwise thwarted by Indy’s dogged pursuit of the Ark?
I’m also sure very few miss the huge, bald, bad-ass who kicked Indy’s butt before being chopped up by a plane propeller. (Did I mention that Indy and Marion’s actions cause this same ginormous plane to blow up already? Okay, just double-checking.)
Again, I concede that the good doctor’s trail of destruction didn’t affect the main story, at least as far as Amy’s main point is concerned (curse her!). But fortunately, there were two additional, rather significant things she missed, and they cut right through the heart of her premise. Once again, I list them below.
No Ark in Nazi Hands.
This one is pretty straightforward. If there was no Indy, then sooner or later the Nazis would have tracked their missing sub and crew to the island, and retrieved the Ark. Sure, it may have taken another load or two of bad guys getting their faces melted off to figure out how the thing worked, but if the biblical passages our hero points to at the beginning of the movie are any indication, would you really want to face a Third Reich fronted by a weapon that could “level mountains”, and make its army “invincible”? Me either.
Big Bang Theory writers looked ready to address this issue at the end of the show, but instead of arriving at the same, obvious conclusion I did, that without out hero the Nazis would have the Ark, they went for a joke about him failing to get the Ark to the museum like he had set out to do, resulting in the irreplaceable relic being more or less lost to history inside the massive warehouse at the film’s end. Of course, it is a comedy show, and the joke was funny, so I forgave them. Still, the point is the point. Without Indy, the Nazi’s have the Ark, warehouse or not.
In my humble opinion, that result in and of itself was more than enough to thwart Amy’s main contention. In fact, upon closer scrutiny her original thesis conveniently ended where the Nazis all die, instead of the film’s actual finale, where we learned that Indy and Marion not only survived, but the Ark ended up in American hands.
Sure, I concede that the idea of it on display in a museum is probably better than a warehouse, (maybe) but it is still indisputably better than the proven-deadly artifact ending up in the hands of WWII Germany. That’s all. Thesis refuted. Indy matters.
But wait, before we celebrate, there’s even more.
When watching this film through a new lens, I also noted something that, quite frankly, shocks me to think Amy didn’t notice herself. And this, Dr. Fowler, is my final, crucial point. Not only did Indiana’s actions affect the real, actual end of the movie, but they had the most important effect of all.
Indy Saved Marion.
When the men from Army Intelligence first approach Dr. Jones at the university where he teaches, they inquire about his former professor, Dr. Abner Ravenwood. Indiana explains that he hasn’t spoken to the doctor in years after the two men had experienced a falling out. Although not immediately clear why, we soon learn the rift centers around Indy’s failed romance with the doctor’s daughter, Marion.
En-route to Egypt, Dr. Jones takes a detour to Tibet where, in the distant, snowy mountains, we find Marion Ravenwood eking out a living as a bar owner, even resorting to drinking contests with dentally challenged locals to supplement her meager income. She hopes to leave one day, we soon learn, but it will take money she does not yet have.
The rest of the reunion is not a happy one, and after revisiting their painful past more than once, Marion tells Indy to come back later. Maybe she will help him out then, but not today. He leaves.
Moments later, the evil Nazi enforcer Otto shows up, accompanied by a rough looking gang of thugs. Based on the ensuing dialogue, it is implied that her life is in danger even if she gives them the headpiece, the same one Indy had been looking for. As already pointed out by Leonard, Otto would have surely extracted the item from Marion one way or another, and gone on to find the Ark with or without Indy’s help.
But what, I ask, would have happened to Marion?
We can’t know for sure, but given the approach Otto and his men were taking in questioning Doctor Ravenwood’s daughter right before Indiana returned, saving both her and the day, it sure seemed like she was in serious peril, likely mortally so. I freely admit his rescue did result in the bar being burned to the ground, but saving her life, or at least her face from a hot poker, seems to be the more significant thing here. (And given the bar’s location, I can’t imagine the sale price was a queen’s ransom either. Maybe she had insurance.)
In fact, Dr. Jones not only saves Marion’s life, righting his biggest regret and most likely hers as well, but the movie ends with the two of them having seemingly healed their past wounds and clearly forming a couple again.
I mean, seriously, Amy Farrah Fowler, if finding the woman he was meant to be with, saving her life, and then ending up together was lost on you, I contend maybe you just weren’t paying attention.
(Okay, fine. We learn in the third movie that their relationship didn’t last, and in the fourth movie we meet the snot-rag of a kid they made together, but at least she’s still alive, so it is still a net win.)
While true that my first point about Indy’s wrecking ball approach to Nazis and their equipment was more of a bonus, and not necessarily germane to the plot’s conclusion, I think my second and third points are the key ones.
- Without Indiana Jones the Nazis have the Ark, not the U.S. Period.
- Without Indiana Jones Marion is likely dead, and what was probably their best chance at reconciliation dies with her.
Sure, it was a fun premise, and one of my all-time favorite Big Bang episodes, but Amy’s conclusion was wrong. And quite frankly, given what a romantic Amy truly is, (along with being my favorite character on the entire series, and the one who frequently outsmarts her fellow scientists with both skill and panache) I can’t believe she missed it.
Seriously, Amy? Hero saves woman he was meant to be with? Hero and long lost love heal old wounds and end up back together? Hero keeps super weapon from Nazis? How could you miss all that?
I guess it just explains why Garfield hates Mondays. (And yes, you have to watch the actual TBBT episode to get that reference).
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